The Superhero Movie Obsession

I’m a huge fan of superhero films. And recently, us fans of these particular films have been treated to a flurry of great (and terrible) adaptations of our favourite heroes. I guess my interest in this genre really began when I watched Batman Begins; it was the first superhero film where I saw a different side to the hero, the darker, the more complex, brooding hero that is the Dark Knight. Since then, Batman has become my favourite superhero (well, he was always kinda my favourite, I just rekindled interest in the DC character with Christopher Nolan’s brilliant rendition).

But with the recent torrent of these films, it’s got me wondering: how long will Hollywood’s obsession with the superhero genre remain?

Superhero films are the perfect money spinner. They have the perfect setups for high-octane action, in-your-face special effects, the easy ability to market them in Hollywood’s latest love affair – the 3D format – and their comic book roots make them the ideal merchandise spin-off tools that take the money beyond the movie house.

But as the universe (and our good old friend Mr Newton) have proved to us, there’s a limit to everything. And I fear that, with the conclusion of Nolan’s Dark Knight saga, we’re fast approaching that point, that singularity for want of a geekier phrase.

Let’s face it: the latest Iron Man was a flop. Weak story line (in fact, I saw a YouTube video that drew parallels between it and The Incredibles plot), over-the-top action sequences and a failed attempt at trying to make the franchise seem “serious and dark” like Nolan’s trilogy all contributed to my disappointment in this film. (I still maintain that the first Iron Man was the best on in this series).

Man of Steel was a great approach at rejuvenating the ultimate superhero, the Übermensch himself. However, it too fell into the trap of including more flash than substance in its extended and dubious action sequences. Sure, I get it: superhero films need the action to justify their genre, but as Nolan displayed in his interpretation of the Dark Knight tale, you can achieve a subtle balance that makes a trilogy a brilliant one.

Perhaps in questioning how long the superhero obsession will prevail, we should investigate why we revel in these films in the first place.

The surface answer is obvious: to see our favourite comic book heroes on the big screen. But then there’s the deeper aspect: the escapism, the retreat to a world vastly different than our own, the offering of entering another dimension where these heroes exist, and where the problems of our own world can, just for a few hours, fade into the background.

With Batman done, and now Superman entering the fold, and with Marvel’s heroes still chugging away at fighting crime and saving the world in generic CGI ways, I wonder if we’re reaching the point of these films becoming repetitive, mundane, and contrary to the mission they initially set out to achieve. I think that, if the studios are to continue their superhero fixation (and there’s no doubt they won’t – the box office takings certainly speak for themselves) then we need more innovative storylines, more engaging drama, and a return to the initial excitement that drew us to these films in the first place.

28 Films to Watch in 2013

Last year was one of my favourite years for cinema: some extraordinary films were released and I was privileged to have seen them. The Hunger Games (highest-grossing action film of 2012), Skyfall, The Bourne Legacy, Avengers Assemble and, of course, my no.1 film – The Dark Knight Rises. 

But from Sunday’s 70th Golden Globe Awards, it’s evident that 2013 is set to supersede last year when it comes to film. For the South African circuit, many of 2012’s nominees will only open in the next few weeks, and thus I have included them as part of my 2013 selection below.

I hope you enjoy this year’s selection. (2013 release dates given from the American circuit; local release dates may vary).

Award Season favorites (releasing in early-2013)

  1. Django Unchained: Written + Directed by Quentin Tarantino, starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio
  2. Les Misérables: Starring Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Sacha Baron Cohen
  3. Argo: Directed by Ben Affleck
  4. Zero Dark Thirty Directed by Kathryn Bigalow
  5. Lincoln Directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Daniel Day Lewis

2013 Releases

  1.  A Good Day to Die Hard starring Bruce Willis. February 14th.
  2. Oz the Great and Powerful directed by Sam Raimi, starring James Franco and Mila Kunis. March 8th.
  3. Oblivion starring Tom Cruise. April 12th.
  4. Iron Man 3 Starring Robert Downey, Jr. May 3rd.
  5. The Great Gatsby directed by Baz Luhrmann, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mullligan, Isla Fisher, Amitabh Bachchan. May 10th.
  6. Star Trek: Into Darkness. Directed by J.J. Abrams, starring Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg. May 17th.
  7. After Earth Directed by M. Night Shymalan, starring Will Smith and Jaden Smith. June 7th.
  8. Man of Steel Directed by Zack Snyder, starring Russel Crowe. June 14th.
  9. Monsters University starring Billy Crystal. June 21st.
  10. Kick-Ass 2 starring Nicolas Cage. June 28th.
  11. Despicable Me 2 starring Steve Carell. July 3rd.
  12. The Lone Ranger directed by Gore Verbinski, starring Johnny Depp. July 3rd.
  13. Pacific Rim directed by Guillermo del Toro. July 12th.
  14. The Wolverine starring Hugh Jackman. July 26th.
  15. 300: Rise of an Empire written by Zack Snyder (300). August 2nd.
  16. Elysium directed by Neill Blomkamp, starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. August 9th.
  17. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters starring Logan Lerman. August 16th.
  18. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones 3D directed by George Lucas. September 20th.
  19. Gravity starring George Clooney, Sandra Bullock, directed by Alfonso Cuaron. October 4th.
  20. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For starring Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba. October 4th.
  21. Thor: The Dark World starring Natalie Portman, Chris Hemsworth. November 8th.
  22. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire directed by Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend), starring Jennifer Lawrence, Lenny Kravitz. November 22nd.
  23. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug directed by Peter Jackson, starring Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and Ian McKellan. December 13th.

I hope to watch all these films above this year, and you can be sure to read my thoughts on a select few of them right here on Pixelated Thinking.